The year our oldest son dropped out of high school and became an addict was a very dark and difficult year for us. It was also a time of deeper exposure to life’s most important lessons. I didn’t fully realize it until much later, but it was during that anguished time that I gained a greater understanding of humility, honesty, courage, trust and grace.
In this week’s post I want to share with you what I learned about grace.
Grace is the healing, saving, blessing activity of God in our lives. Grace is God being God. It is God with us.
I learned grace in new ways while our son was still using. I experienced God with us in that dark time. God did not wait until we figured things out. God did not wait at all. God was with us through it all, in it all, extending healing, and blessing to us all. It was God’s grace that drew us into humility and honesty. It was God’s grace that gave us courage when our hearts grew faint with fear. It was God’s grace that taught us to entrust ourselves and our son to God’s loving care.
Sometimes people define grace as “unmerited favor” and then go on to talk about grace as if it is something God extends to us in spite of our lack of value in God’s eyes. I experienced deeply that this is not what grace is at all. Unmerited favor (or unearned favor) means that grace is something we cannot earn because it is already ours. God’s grace, God’s love are ours. Already. Always.Unmerited favor means that God’s loving-kindness toward us does not change as we change. It is constant, unchangeable, and therefore absolutely reliable. Grace is God always seeing and knowing our infinite value. Grace is God actively seeking to awaken us to God’s love for us and to our everlasting value to God.
When our son was at his worst, his value, his preciousness, in our eyes never changed. We loved him and treasured him. If we, being broken parents, could extend that kind of grace to our son without even trying, how much more does God’s love and valuing of us never fail. This is the grace I experienced in new ways while our son was still using.
Jesus told a story in which God is a parent whose child has lost his way. This is the familiar story of the father whose son has taken his portion of the inheritance and quickly spent it all, most likely on mood-altering behaviors. The father looks down the road day after day, filled with longing for this son he loves and values beyond measure. The father endlessly scans the horizon for his son, waiting for the day his son will return. The father never forgets for an instant his son’s infinite value or his own endless love for his child. So when the son first appears far off down the road the father runs toward him with arms outstretched and joy in his heart. The father does not listen to the son’s rehearsed speech about not being worthy; instead, the father demonstrates to the son the son’s great value. The father throws his arms around his son, embracing him in love and gladness. Then the father places his ring on his son’s finger, his coat on his son’s shoulders and tells his servants to prepare a party in honor of his son. This is grace. It is God’s extravagant, unshakable valuing and loving of us. This is God’s grace toward us as parents. This is God’s grace toward our children. This is God’s never ending grace toward each and every one of us.
Humility. Honesty. Courage. Trust. Grace. These lessons were hard won. These lessons were pure gift. I am grateful beyond telling for our son’s recovery and for our recovery as a family. And I am deeply, daily grateful for the life lessons God taught me while our son was still using drugs.
May the God of grace keep you in all peace. May you, by God’s grace, know the freedom of humility and honesty, and the possibilities of courage and trust. May God’s grace bring full healing to you and to those you love.